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Monday, December 7, 2015

THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON (aka PARADISE LAGOON) (1957)

J. M. Barrie’s play is one of those near-perfect conceptions that work even when execution isn’t all it might be. So, even if this adaptation comes up short on style, and Lewis Gilbert’s helming can’t hit the right pulse for its serio-comic tone, it still comes across. Especially in its two splendidly cast male leads. First, that perfect story: Shipwrecked on a deserted tropical isle, an Edwardian family & staff must switch roles to survive. Servants to Master; Masters to Servant. Even gone topsy-turvy, the class system goes on, just reorganized. Softer & more romantic than what, say, Shaw would have made of it; more grounded than Wilde; sentiment shows largely so Barrie can pull the rug out on emotional attachment. We might be watching LORD OF THE FLIES as drawing-room comedy. (Well, outdoor drawing-room comedy.) Most of the cast play a little too broadly, like a stock company out on the road. But Kenneth More is expectedly admirable (and unexpectedly fit) as Crichton, the perfect butler turned island king; while Cecil Parker, as his erstwhile employer/master, is a quivering tower of flip-flopping susceptibility. Both as wonderful as the play.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Worried that ADMIRABLE would be misread as ADMIRAL (‘Honey, what’s this WWII navy picture all about?'), the film was retitled PARADISE LAGOON for Stateside release.

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